TV

Untangling Alpha And Lydia’s Backstory On ‘The Walking Dead’

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In this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Omega,” writer Channing Powell and director David Boyd took us through at least part of the origins tale for Alpha and her daughter, Lydia. However, the story — as relayed by Lydia to both Henry and Daryl — is confused and mixed-up, owing to a lifetime of gaslighting by Alpha. Lydia — who is the “Omega” in this story (Samantha Morton is Alpha, and we’ll meet her right hand, Ryan Hurst’s Beta later on) has been brainwashed by her own mother into believing that she is responsible for her father’s death.

Lydia and Alpha’s story begins in a shelter in Baltimore, 23 days after the zombie outbreak. They have been cooped up with Lydia’s father and others for three weeks, and Alpha’s mind is starting to go. She’s going stir crazy from the anxiety and isolation. “The look in my Dad’s eye. I still see it. How cold it is,” Lydia tells Henry. But her memories are confused. It was never her father with the cold eyes, nor was it her mother with the “Lydia” tattoo, and it was never her mother who sang to her. It was always her father, who never shaved his beard, either, as Lydia misremembers.

It was Alpha, in fact, who cut off her hair. “The world’s over. I’m doing what I want now,” Alpha told her husband as she snipped off her locks. It’s in the hair cutting where Lydia’s memories untangle, after Daryl catches Lydia in a misremembrance. It wasn’t her father who beat her with a switch. Her father is dead, and the bruises from the beatings on Lydia’s arms are still fresh. It’s Alpha who continues to beat Lydia, and it is Alpha who led Lydia to believe that her father died trying to protect her. In reality, Alpha killed her father, because she believed him to be weak.

Lydia’s father believed the best course of action was to stay with the group in the shelter. Alpha lost hope 23 days after the outbreak. She lost her connection to reality soon thereafter, losing faith in her shelter group — in all communities. She couldn’t stand to leave her daughter with her husband, because she believed that she knew what was best for her — to keep moving, to live among the dead. Lydia has had to suffer for it ever since because her father wasn’t around to protect her anymore. Meanwhile, over the course of all those years, Alpha told Lydia a different story about her father, a story told so many times and so convincingly that Lydia had come to believe it over the truth.

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It takes only a tiny glimmer of hope and empathy from Daryl, and and act of faith and kindness from Henry to unravel it all. Lydia finally understands the monster that her mother is, but that realization only comes as Alpha arrives outside the gates of The Hilltop demanding her daughter back. Is it because she loves her daughter? Of course not. It’s because she can control her.

Expect to see that tension continue to play out over the course of the season, as Lydia struggles to acclimate to the hope that The Hilltop promises while her mother’s programming continue to wreak hell on her mind. Lydia may understand now that her mother is a monster, but she also understands that she’s probably only still alive because of Alpha. It’s going to take a considerable amount of convincing by Henry, Daryl and the rest of The Hilltop to reprogram Lydia’s mind into believing that there’s another way to survive that doesn’t require wearing the skin of the undead.

Additional Notes

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— Magna, Yumiko, Connie, and Kelly all travel back out into the woods to find Luke before realizing that they never should have done so without first concocting a plan, just as Tara had suggested. Their trip out into the woods, however, gained them nothing, although it did lead Alpha and The Whisperers back to The Hilltop.

— Alpha is fearless in showing up at the gates of The Hilltop with only eight people in skin suits and knives. What is to stop Daryl and Co. from using guns and arrows to kill them? Then again, Alpha knows where Luke and Alden are. Will she propose an exchange?

— “Omega” provides a good character episode for Daryl, who really has taken front and center since the departure of Andrew Lincoln. He’s shared A-plots in three episodes since, with Carol, Michonne, and now Henry/Lydia. He’s also adopting some of Rick’s instincts to lead by being an asshole, but Daryl can’t help but to betray a softer, more forgiving side. At this point, Michonne would probably give Lydia up and let Luke and Alden die. I’m not sure that Daryl would give Lydia up even if Luke and Alden weren’t being help captive.

— Tara is also becoming the kind of leader we might have expected Jesus to be: Understanding, compassionate, and forgiving, far from the kind of leader who would institute the death penalty, like Maggie.

— I’m not entirely sure what prompted Scott Gimple to kill off Carl and essentially replace his storyline this season with Henry, but so far, Henry and Carl seem fairly interchangeable. I understand that the need to write out Andrew Lincoln might have left Chandler Riggs’ character stranded, but there’s no reason Carl couldn’t have moved to The Hilltop — as he did in the comics — after Rick died. The only reason I can think that it might have been necessary to swap them out is that Carl would have looked virtually the same after a 7-year time jump, whereas Henry had to be replaced by another actor after the time jump.

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